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Soft Teaching Techniques by Robert Scorby

Affinity Friday / Children at Their Best

This unit, or group of learning projects, takes a fair amount of extra work on the part of the teacher—do not be discouraged.  The purpose of Affinity Friday is to allow students to follow their learning hearts. I did it for part of one day per week.  I chose Friday, thus “Affinity Friday.” 

It begins by giving a lesson defining what the word affinity means.  Affinities, of course, are subjects, skills, hobbies that we are good at, want to be good at, and/or want to learn and do more of.  

The second step is to brainstorm as a class what affinities the classroom students and adults enjoy, or want to, writing the affinities on the blackboard or sheet of large paper. It is very important for the adults to be in on this step.  They will be the teachers.  The projects work 100% better if the teachers are invested into it more than just something they will have to teach.  Note:  Unless more creativity can be manifested, Affinity Friday only works if you have a number of adults available—a wonderful project to include student teachers, teaching assistants and volunteer guardians.   After the brainstorming, students can write and/or draw a picture of themselves doing their affinity. 

The third step:  Once students have drawn and/or written about their affinities, they will need to vote on affinities that they can share with other students in the classroom—it is not possible to gather the resources to teach to all affinities.  The adults can only work with small groups of children who agree to share an affinity—remember the teachers have to share in the affinities, as well.   The number of groups will depend on the number of adults able (wanting to) teach to the affinities. The students are then divided into groups that have decided to share an affinity.  Some of the subjects that have been chosen by students of mine were painting, cooking, ukulele playing, science, gardening, and basketball.  I eliminated things like video games—that is just how I roll. 

From here on the teachers gather the resources, find the appropriate websites and materials, plan how to administer the teaching, et cetera.  I did lessons lasting about forty to fifty minutes long, culminating in another period of time for the students to share with the other students in the classroom what they did or learned that day.   Most units lasted for four to five Fridays, but can be shorter or longer depending upon the subjects, and other scheduling considerations.

You just might find students being more interested in learning than they have ever expressed.  I have found that even the attention span of children with attention deficit disorders are fully engaged and show no signs of inattentiveness.  Hyper children may become more excited than during other lessons, calling on the specialized skills of the adults.  But, I have also seen hyper children calm down because they were too busy being engaged in the subject at hand. 

Affinity Friday can be hard work for the adults.  Gathering materials and planning will take new and sometimes daunting focus--one reason why the subjects should be the teacher’s affinity, as well.  But, I have found these lessons to be very powerful and rewarding.  It might also take some creativity justifying how the lessons fit into the standards that we are forced to follow.  It can be done.  Any questions, give me an Email.  I am excited to help.

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Robert Scorby Copyright January 9, 2007 (all rights reserved)